A man caught on video slapping a TV news reporter’s behind during a live broadcast turned himself in to police Friday.
Thomas Callaway, of a Birdie Court, Statesboro, address, was arrested Saturday by Savannah police on charges of sexual battery.
During the River Bridge Run foot race Dec. 7, WSAV reporter Alex Bozarjian was filming live on the Talmadge Bridge, with several racers running behind her. Many were waving their arms at the camera, but one runner, Callaway, 43, was seen slapping Bozarjian on the rear.
According to Savannah police incident reports provided to the Statesboro Herald, Bozarjian, 23, told police the incident happened between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. that morning. She said an “unknown runner” executed a “smack and grab” on her buttocks and she “felt a sharp sting” that “caused her to pause.” In the video, Callaway is clearly seen slapping her rear end as he passes. Bozarjian stops her broadcast and stares after him, a look of disbelief on her face.
Callaway later admitted to the Statesboro Herald that he slapped Bozarjian but said he intended to slap her on the back and denied grabbing Bozarjian’s buttocks.
She did not know who he was but tweeted on Twitter to the then-anonymous Callaway: “You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better.”
Callaway apparently identified himself when he called WSAV to apologize to Bozarjian. He did not speak to her, but messages were relayed, according to reports. He also said he was driving to Savannah from Statesboro to apologize in person. He did apologize on air, but Bozarjian told police she intended to press criminal charges.
Callaway was arrested Friday and released on bond. He had no comment on his arrest, but after the incident last week, he expressed shame and regret and said he intended no harm, claiming he did not realize he slapped her bottom until he saw the video.
Callaway’s attorney Joseph Turner said Monday, “We were notified of the arrest warrant on Friday and Tommy immediately turned himself in to local authorities. He was released a short time later on bond. Tommy deeply regrets the situation, and we hope to resolve this matter in the near future.”
Calls Monday seeking comment from Bozarjian were unsuccessful, and a request for comment from WSAV was not received Monday.
However, last week, the station issued this statement: “The conduct displayed toward Alex Bozarjian during her live coverage of Saturday’s Savannah Bridge Run was reprehensible and completely unacceptable. No one should ever be disrespected in this manner. The safety and protection of our employees is WSAV-TV’s highest priority.”
Misdemeanor sexual battery is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000, according to criminaldefenselawyer.com.
“A person in Georgia commits the crime of sexual battery by making physical contact with the intimate part (genitals, buttocks, or a woman’s breasts) of another person’s body without the consent of the other person,” the site states.
In Georgia, people are only required to register as a sex offender if they are convicted of rape, sodomy or aggravated sexual battery, or are convicted a second or subsequent time of sexual battery, according to the site.
Callaway has been portrayed incorrectly as a youth pastor in some media reports. According to spokespersons at Pittman Park United Methodist Church, where he is a member, Callaway has never held that position nor been employed by the church.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.